A BIRD handler caring for two young peregrine falcons which fell from a Victorian water tower is calling for more space to be provided to allow the birds to nest.

A Dutch-ringed female peregrine and her mate have successfully raised young falcons on the historic Jumbo water tower every year since 2016.

The feathered family has drawn the eyes of many bird watchers and nature lovers.


  • A picture of one of the birds of prey by Sean Nixon

Michael Padmore, of Colchester Natural History Society, said: “This year, the pair had kept observers guessing by appearing to desert their favoured nest site on the north side of the tower.

“Residents living in neighbouring Balkerne Gardens reported seeing a battle between three falcons earlier in the spring and for a while it looked like this might have driven the pair away.

“With the Colchester Sixth Form College watch point abandoned for the year and most town centre shops closed, there were fewer people around to observe the birds.

“But at the end of May, young falcons were heard calling from a new site on the south side of the tower.”

Sadly, shortly after this nest was discovered, relief turned to tragedy when one of the young falcons fell from the tower and died.

The two remaining chicks were ready to leave the nest in mid-June, but across two consecutive days both birds were spotted on the ground by members of the public.

They were picked up and passed on to Rosie Catford, at WildLives Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, in Thorrington, who cared for the birds until they could be collected by licensed bird of prey handler Peter Merchant.

Mr Merchant has cared for 14 peregrine falcons over the past ten years, rehabilitating them before introducing them back into the wild.

He had hoped to use tactics he deployed successfully with two young peregrines in 2018, releasing the birds from the roof of the nearby Yates bar, in Head Street.


  • A peregrine falcon on Jumbo. Picture: Sean Nixon

Mr Padmore, a teacher at Colchester Sixth Form College, said: “If the parents were still present, the bond between them and their young would be quickly re-established.

“In previous years, the parents have often been observed above the college, teaching their young to hunt by dropping dead pigeons for them to catch in freefall.

“Unfortunately, this year the parents left the water tower very soon after their young left the nest and Mr Merchant could not risk releasing the two fledglings without their parents present.”

Mr Merchant confirmed the two birds are still in his care.


  • Peter Merchant is caring for the chicks

“I now need time to train these birds before I can release them into the wild,” he said.

“I have got two very good, professional falconer friends who can assist me with training.

“They have got to be able to fend for themselves before released, if they were to be released now they would certainly starve.

“At the moment they don’t see me, or any human, at all - they are fed through a hatch as we have to maintain the birds in a wild state.”

Mr Merchant suspects the reason young peregrines frequently struggle during their first flights is because of the narrowness of the recesses they occupy on the tower.

“If we get the co-operation of the owner we can do all sorts of things if we are allowed access to the building,” he said.

“I could install a platform for them to provide more space for the young falcons to practise before they fly.

“In other areas, like Norwich Cathedral and Cromer Church, there are cameras and webcams installed so you can actually watch the birds.

“Not only would we be helping them to survive and thrive, we can tap into the local interest in these wonderful birds.”

Mr Padmore added: “Peregrines are a thrilling sight in the centre of town.

“Ensuring that they continue to thrive will demonstrate Colchester’s commitment to biodiversity when it is more threatened than ever before.”